Temple v. State

Decision Date16 January 2013
Docket NumberNo. PD–0888–11.,PD–0888–11.
Citation390 S.W.3d 341
PartiesDavid Mark TEMPLE, Appellant v. The STATE of Texas.
CourtTexas Court of Criminal Appeals

OPINION TEXT STARTS HERE

Stanley G. Schneider, Schneider & McKinney, P.C., Houston, TX, for Appellant.

Alan Curry, Assistant District Attorney, Harris County, Houston, TX, Lisa C. McMinn, State's Attorney, Austin, for State.

OPINION

HERVEY, J., delivered the opinion of the Court in which KELLER, P.J., and JOHNSON, KEASLER, COCHRAN, and ALCALA, JJ., joined.

Appellant, David Mark Temple, was convicted of the murder of his wife, Belinda Temple, and sentenced to life imprisonment. The Fourteenth Court of Appeals affirmed Appellant's conviction. Temple v. State, 342 S.W.3d 572 (Tex.App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 2010). We granted discretionary review, and we will affirm the court of appeals's holding that the evidence is legally sufficient to support Appellant's conviction.

I. FACTS

Appellant and Belinda met and married while they were students at Stephen F. Austin University. Later, they bought a corner-lot home in the Cimarron subdivision located south of I–10 in Katy, Texas. This was near Appellant's childhood home, which was located north of I–10 off of Katy Hockley Road. Appellant worked as a teacher and coach at Alief Hastings High School, and Belinda was a teacher at Katy High School. At the time of Belinda's death, their son Evan was approaching four years of age, and Belinda was eight months pregnant.

Several witnesses testified that Appellant and Belinda were in a “good,” “loving,” and “caring” relationship. Appellant's family and several friends described them as a “compatible couple” in an “equal partnership.” They stated that Appellant was supportive of Belinda's actions. They also testified that Appellant was a great father to Evan, that he and Evan had a “remarkable” relationship, and that Appellant was excited about the upcoming birth of his daughter, even helping to prepare the nursery.

However, several other witnesses testified to a darker side of the couple's relationship. Belinda's twin sister, Brenda Lucas, viewed Appellant as controlling. She testified that, during her last visit to their home at Christmas, Appellant and Belinda were not getting along, and Appellant made fun of Belinda's “big butt.” Brenda stated that she told Belinda that she needed to “put her foot down” with Appellant.

Quinton Harlan, Appellant's friend and fellow coach at Alief Hastings High School, opined that Appellant could be volatile, had a controlling personality, and was meticulous in his planning. His wife, Tammy, testified that Belinda was a strong-willed woman, but uncharacteristically submissive and meek when in Appellant's presence. Tammy stated that she would tell Belinda to stand up to Appellant and to tell him how she felt. Although she acknowledged that Appellant was a good father to Evan, Tammy explained that Appellant made derogatory statements about the manner in which Belinda raised Evan and kept the house. Both Tammy and Quinton testified that Appellant called Belinda “fat” and “ugly” in front of them. Tammy also asserted that Appellant called Belinda's family “crazy, white trash, fat” and that he would say he didn't even want [Belinda] or Evan around them,” even preventing Evan from spending time with Belinda's family.

During the summer of 1998, Appellant went to his high school reunion. Quinton testified that Appellant informed him that, on the first night, he met a girl that he used to date and they had spent some time together. According to Quinton, Appellant stated that they kissed when they were on the couch together, and when Quinton asked if they had had sexual intercourse, Appellant responded, “No, everything but that.” Appellant further explained to Quinton that, even though he had not wanted her to, Belinda had gone to the reunion on the second night. Tammy testified that she spoke with Belinda before Appellant's reunion and insisted that she needed to go to it.

Day of the Murder

On Monday, January 11, 1999, Belinda was at work when she was informed that Evan was running a fever at day care. During lunch, Belinda picked up her son and took him to their house. At approximately 12:30 p.m., Appellant arrived home to watch Evan, which allowed Belinda to return to school for a meeting that lasted until 3:20 or 3:30 p.m.

After leaving school, Belinda stopped by the home of Appellant's parents to pick up some homemade soup. At 3:32 p.m., Belinda made a cellular telephone call to Appellant at home, which lasted for 30 seconds. Appellant testified that Belinda called him while she was en route to his parents' home. Appellant's father Kenneth testified that he spoke briefly with Belinda and that she left their residence at approximately 3:45 p.m. Witnesses estimated that it would take Belinda around 15 minutes to arrive home. In his statement to police, Appellant claimed that Belinda arrived at 3:45 p.m., but at trial, his testimony indicated that her arrival was closer to 4:00 p.m.

When Belinda arrived at the house, Appellant could tell she was tired. Several witnesses testified that due to the pregnancy, Belinda was often tired and had swollen feet. Appellant testified that because Evan was feeling better, he decided to take his son out so that his wife could rest. According to Appellant, he left with Evan around 4:00 p.m. and drove his blue, short-bed Chevrolet pickup truck to the small park in their neighborhood, Cimarron Park, just a couple of minutes away. Shortly after arriving there, however, he and Evan decided to leave and go to a larger park, Peckham Park, which was located several miles away. Investigators later returned to Cimarron Park with photographs of Appellant and his truck, but no one recognized them. At trial when Appellant was asked why he took Evan to Cimarron Park in the first place, Appellant stated that they were [r]unning errands, killing time for Belinda to rest” before they ate and Belinda went to Bunco.

Appellant maintained that, on their way to Peckham Park, Evan wanted something to drink, so they stopped at a Brookshire Brothers Grocery Store located north of, and about six miles from, their home. Appellant acknowledged that there were other grocery stores that were closer to his residence. Several witnesses testified that a trip from Appellant's home to Brookshire Brothers would have taken approximately 12 minutes. Surveillance cameras recorded Appellant and Evan entering the store at 4:32 p.m. and leaving at 4:38 p.m. Appellant purchased drinks and cat food.

Appellant testified that, at that point, he chose not to go to Peckham Park so that he and Evan could return home in time to have dinner with Belinda before she went to play Bunco. But, before heading home, he decided to stop by Home Depot to look at shelving for the baby's room. Appellant and Belinda had been to the same store on the Saturday two days before; they had purchased some shelving brackets, which turned out to be the wrong size. He did not bring the “wrong brackets” with him when he returned to the Home Depot. Appellant and Evan were videotaped entering the store at 5:14 p.m. They were not videotaped exiting the store.

While the trip from Brookshire Brothers to Home Depot should have taken ten to twenty minutes according to witness testimony, it took Appellant approximately 36 minutes, which he explained was due to traffic. During this drive time, Appellant was seen by an old high school friend, Buck Bindeman, at the intersection of Morton Ranch Road and the Katy Hockley Cutoff, coming from the general direction of Appellant's parents' home. Appellant later denied having been at this intersection.

Meanwhile, at 4:38 p.m., Belinda's twin sister, Brenda Lucas, called Belinda at home to tell her that their grandfather was ill. When there was no answer, she left a message. Then, at 5:10 p.m., Kenneth Temple called and left a message asking about the health of “little man.” There was no answer when he again called the house at 5:30 p.m. or when his wife called at 5:40 p.m.

Appellant testified that he and Evan arrived home shortly after 5:30 p.m. Witnesses testified that it was approximately five miles or twelve minutes from Home Depot to Appellant's home. Neighbor Angela Vielma was walking to a friend's home when she saw Appellant's truck turn in front of her into his driveway. Inside the truck, she saw Appellant and a little boy. She estimated the time to be 5:25 p.m. From her angle, Vielma did not see Appellant's dog in the garage, but neither did she see Belinda's vehicle parked inside.

Appellant testified that he unbuckled Evan from his car seat and helped him out of the truck. He expected Evan to wait in the garage while he ran inside to tell Belinda that they were home, and he would return to watch Evan ride his bike.1 However, when he approached the back door, Appellant saw that the door was partially open and the window had been smashed. He stated that he immediately thought that the house had been burglarized, so he picked up his son and ran across the street to his neighbor's home.

Michael Ruggiero was reading in the front room of his house when Appellant began banging on the front door and yelling, “Mike, Mike, it's me, David. Let me in.” Appellant said that it looked like someone had broken into his house and asked the Ruggieros to take Evan and to call 9–1–1. After handing Evan over, Appellant bolted back to his residence. Michael told his wife Peggy to call 9–1–1, and he went after Appellant. At 5:36 p.m., Peggy called 9–1–1 and informed the operator that someone had broken into Appellant's residence.

As he pursued Appellant, Michael Ruggiero loudly called for him to wait up, but Appellant did not slow down. Appellant entered his back yard through the gate and allowed the gate to close behind him. Michael again called for Appellant to wait up, but by the time Michael made it to the gate, Appellant was entering the house through the back door. Michael testified that Appe...

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